Sunday, January 29, 2006

I enjoy reading the reactions on Slate to my articles, especially when they call me by my first name -- "Scott you ignorant slut!" being my personal fave -- but unfortunately those that do seldom succeed in making a coherent point.

My recent article about Hamas was my first serious foray into writing about Middle East politics since I moved to Cairo last October, so naturally I was interested in what people thought. You can sort of sense my uncertainty when you read the article from start to finish: Although I begin by saying Bush's idea of promoting democracy appears to have backfired, I end by suggesting it might be crazy enough that it will work. I prefer to believe the latter.

Frankly, I distrust most anybody that claims to have a clear idea of what's going to happen next. Historically, nothing like this has ever happened before.

My idea for an article on Bush's "pothole theory" for the "Foreigners" section of Slate (drawing on a very interesting piece by Guy Dinmore in the Financial Times, which unfortunately is not available online) was green lit prior to Hamas's shock win of a majority in the Palestinian elections. When Hamas won outright, I actually got sort of nervous on a couple of grounds: First of all, everybody and their retarded brother is now going to be reading my little essay about Palestine and Israel. Second of all, my own opinions about the matter are really conflicted, although ultimately I prefer to think it's a good thing that democracy prevailed and the corrupt Fatah party was thrown out on its ass.

In fact, I only scratched the surface. There were a lot of things I didn't mention, such as the strange role that Islamic Jihad will now play. According to what I've read, Hamas actually rushed in (as the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood) during the first intidada in 1987-88, after Islamic Jihad, declaring that the destruction of Israel was the divine duty of every Muslim, had initially seized the popular momentum. Hamas attempted (successfully, in the end) to grab the mantle of Palestinian nationalist (and Islamist) resistance.

On Saturday, Hamas (like the IRA, a famously disciplined organization) declared its mission to create a "national army" consisting of all the different Palestian factions. It would seem its biggest obstacle in that regard is not Israel, nor even Fatah, but rather Islamic Jihad, the most important group that rejected the truce with Israel one year ago. If Hamas can bring Islamic Jihad in line - which would involve using any means necessary, Hamas being Hamas, in contrast to Fatah - then peace, or at a long term truce, might actually be a possibility.

Then again, I'm the kind of person who likes to look for silver linings.


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